Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
Our cover story this month is ‘Shillong May Glitter Like Las Vegas’. Shillong which is also known as the ‘Scotland of The East’ is famous for its natural beauty. Recently, the Government of Meghalaya has legalized gambling of all sorts by nullifying the Meghalaya Prevention of Gambling Act, 1970 and replaces it by the regulation of Gambling Rules 2021. It is still a talk of the town and nobody can say whether or not it will be able to make gambling available for tourists. The Government of Meghalaya has clarified that the local residents will not be a part of the gambling. This however has received strong protest from the local NGOs demanding scrapping of the new Act of 2021. This prompted the Chief Minister of Meghalaya Mr. Conrad Sangma to clarify that there will be no casinos either at Shillong or at Tura. As and when the occasion arises to establish casinos, it will be near Guwahati border.
Gambling is a part of Indian tradition whose roots can be seen in the history. In Meghalaya too, gambling is in the form of Teer, we may call it 'The Shillong Teer Lottery Game' which is legalized and is also considered as a part of local tradition. This is also giving revenue to the state and employment to many. So far, it is good. But it is also a fact that many families have ruined because of gambling.
The Las Vegas model sounds well but difficult to implement. In Las Vegas we find plenty of glazy casinos, never ending nightlife and millions of tourists from all over the world. The resident population is just 6 lakh (the greater metropolitan region has a population of 2.2 million). The law and order and policing as is available in Las Vegas is not available in our region. The subject of introducing gambling in the state of Meghalaya has not been well debated. The pressure group and civil societies were not consulted by the government. Nobody knows what exactly government wants to implement and what is the projected income from such initiatives. One must not forget that, wherever there is a gambling, there will be crimes. Without efficient networking of policing, it could lead to a disastrous situation in a state like Meghalaya.
We also have casino in the state of Sikkim. The experience is not as expected. Soumik Dutta a senior Journalist observes “the socio-economic effects of the casino industry in Sikkim have also drawn its share of flak. The bulk of the clientele in the two operational casinos in Sikkim is compromised of locals, and emerging (but undocumented) trends indicate that Sikkim’s social fabric is under considerable stress.
As on today, tourism in Meghalaya is booming. Almost all the hotels, private guest house etc are full. If, we have to take initiatives to generate tourist inflow then there is a need to develop tourist infrastructure simultaneously. Government needs to debate, discuss and act.